In Depth

A tragedy in pictures: three years since the Grenfell Tower disaster

Annual vigils to mark the devastating fire replaced with an online service due to coronavirus

This Sunday is the third anniversary of the day the UK woke to news that Grenfell Tower in London had caught alight in the country’s worst residential fire since the Second World War. 

“Residents of tower blocks and other homes across the UK will be asked to stream a bright green light” from their windows, The Guardian says, while the bells of St Paul’s and Southwark cathedrals will toll 72 times as the bereaved and survivors of Grenfell Tower remember the disaster. 

Planned vigils at the base of the burned-out tower block have been cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis. Instead an online service featuring faith leaders and a recording of You’ll Never Walk Alone by the musician Marcus Mumford will go ahead.

The fire began just before 1am on Wednesday 14 June 2017, when a fridge-freezer caught fire on the fourth floor of the 24-storey block of flats in North Kensington, West London.

TOPSHOT - Police man a security cordon as a huge fire engulfs the Grenfell Tower early June 14, 2017 in west London. The massive fire ripped through the 27-storey apartment block in west Lond


AFP via Getty Images

More than 250 firefighters and 70 fire engines were sent from stations across London in efforts to control the fire and rescue residents. Over 100 London Ambulance Service crews on at least 20 ambulances also attended.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 14:A man is rescued by fire fighters after a huge fire engulfed the 24 storey residential Grenfell Tower block in Latimer Road, West London in the early hours of this m


2017 Getty Images

The vicious fire spread via the building’s exterior cladding, burning for around 60 hours before finally being extinguished.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 15:Grenfall tower continues to smoulder on June 15, 2017 in London, England. At least twelve people have been confirmed dead and dozens missing after the 24 storey resi


2017 Getty Images

Once extinguished, all that remained of the tower block was a charred skeleton, looming over one of London’s richest boroughs.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 15:Prime Minister Theresa May speaks to Dany Cotton, Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, with members of the fire service as she visits Grenfell Tower, on June 15,


2017 Getty Images

On 15 June, Theresa May, who was then prime minister, visited the site. She met members of the emergency services, but not victims and mourners.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 21:Protesters hold signs calling for justice for the victims of the Grenfell Disaster and shout slogans as they march towards Westminster during an anti-government prot


2017 Getty Images

On 17 June, between 50 and 60 people stormed Kensington and Chelsea Town Hall as members of the public said that people made homeless by the fire needed help, the BBC reported at the time.

That anger turned into the Justice4Grenfell campaign, a group calling for an investigation into the building’s construction, as well as support for the victims.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 14:People hold tributes as they walk to the Wall of Truth to mark the one year anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire on June 14, 2018 in London, England. In one of Bri


2018 Getty Images

An inquiry into the fire was launched, led by retired judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick. The inquiry was criticised from the outset for a lack of diversity among its panellists. One year on from the fire, a “Walk of Truth” was held by those calling for justice.

TOPSHOT - Members of the public hold a vigil and commemoration near Grenfell Tower in west London at midnight June 14, 2018 to honour the 71 people who died when a fire ripped through the Gre


AFP via Getty Images

It coincided with the tower being lit up green, a colour that has come to represent the Justice4Grenfell campaign.

LONDON, ENGLAND- APRIL 23: A general view of Grenfell Tower, where a severe fire killed 72 people in June 2017, on April 23, 2020 in London, England. The British government has extended the l



The tower still stands over London, wrapped in protective sheeting emblazoned with the words “Forever in our Hearts”. The inquiry into the fire is ongoing, but was put on hold in March this year because of the coronavirus outbreak. 

As of March 2020, one household made homeless in the disaster was still living in a hotel, while six households were in temporary homes, according to Justice4Grenfell. At least 20,000 “high-risk residential buildings” are still clad in the same material that caused the fire to spread so rapidly.

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